ANIMAL SCIENCE research establishments the Moredun Research Institute, Scotland’s Rural College and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, have entered into a deal with Roslin Technologies to commercially develop an E. coli O157:H7 vaccine for cattle, that would in turn prevent life-threatening illnesses in humans.

The project team is being led by Dr Simon Wheeler of Roslin Technologies, with significant input from the principal investigators Professor David Gally from the Roslin Institute and Dr Tom McNeilly from the Moredun Research Institute.

Dr Wheeler said: “Drs David Gally and Tom McNeilly performed extensive initial research on the vaccine. They’ve been doing the fundamental research necessary to really understand whether the vaccine works and the essential science behind it.

“Now that we’re progressing into the vaccine’s commercial development phase, they are an integral part of the project team and will be deeply involved at every stage as we move forward.”

E. coli O157:H7 can cause life-threatening foodborne illness in humans through the consumption of contaminated products such as dairy products and meat. Despite efforts to reduce contamination of food, the strain causes between one and 10 cases per 100,000 people, with certain countries having clusters of more virulent strains – the UK, the USA, Argentina, and Sweden.

The experimental vaccine has been developed to limit E. coli O157:H7 shedding from, and transmission between, cattle. Although the bacteria doesn’t harm the cattle, farmers will be encouraged to vaccinate animals against infection. Early results have indicated that the new vaccine may be more effective than other previous attempts and have a greater impact in reducing human exposure and infection.

Under the commercial agreement, Roslin Technologies will perform a two-step validation trial from May to September 2020 in Nebraska, USA. These field trials will examine 'super-shedding' in cattle – the passing of large volumes of bacteria in faeces – to discover whether the vaccine prevents shedding of the bacteria and is viable for commercial use.

Dr McNeilly said: “In order to be granted a licence, you have to show positive results from large scale trials, and particularly for this vaccine, prove it works in the US feedlot system. E. coli O157:H7 is prevalent in the US, as well as parts of South America and Europe, including the UK.

“The biggest market for this vaccine is in the USA and South America. To be commercially viable one has to show the vaccine works in their systems. We have a wonderful collaboration with the USDA and they’ve agreed to run a field trial in Nebraska with the help of Roslin Technologies.”

Dr Gally said: “I’m delighted that Roslin Technologies has invested in the vaccine as it allows the chance for what’s been over a decade of work, investment and research to go to the next stage.

“It means we can build collaboration with US partners to understand how the vaccine works and hopefully provide further commercial development and investment opportunities for Roslin Technologies and other commercial companies in this space.”